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About Face – The Smart Woman’s Guide to Beauty: Your Essential Skincare and Make-Up Bible for the Changing face of Beauty

About Face – The Smart Woman’s Guide to Beauty: Your Essential Skincare and Make-Up Bible for the Changing face of Beauty

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About Face – The Smart Woman’s Guide to Beauty: Your Essential Skincare and Make-Up Bible for the Changing face of Beauty

340 pagine
4 ore
Nov 12, 2015



The face of beauty has changed. Gone are the days of the simple cleanse–tone–moisturise skincare routine, when the most complex make-up decision we had to make was whether to treat ourselves to a lipstick or a gloss. Now, we’re faced with a bewildering world of serums, oils, chemical toners, foundations categorised by letters of the alphabet and the mysterious world of contouring. Confused?

Allow Irish Times beauty writers Aisling and Laura to help. They have tried them all. They know what works – and what doesn’t – and the best of their recommendations and advice are contained within the pages of this informative and humorous book.

‘I love About Face! It’s inspiring and expertly written.’
Marian Keyes

‘A wonderfully comprehensive, no-nonsense, entertaining, tried-and-tested treasury of all things skincare and make-up!’
Amy Huberman

‘Every woman should have this book.’
Roz Purcell

‘This book is your face’s new best friend.’
Panti Bliss

‘Seriously brilliant beauty gurus.’
Róisín Ingle

About Face: Contents

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Serum
  • Moisturiser
  • Facial oil
  • SPF
  • Skin challenges
  • Neck

  • Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Blusher
  • Bronzer and highlighter
  • Eyeshadow
  • Eyeliner
  • Mascara
  • Eyebrows
  • Lipstick
Nov 12, 2015

Informazioni sull'autore

Aisling McDermott is a beauty columnist with The Irish Times. In 2006 she founded, which went on to become Ireland’s most popular beauty website before it was sold in 2014. The Guide to Gorgeous and Gorgeous to Go were both bestsellers and nominated for an Irish Book Award.

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About Face – The Smart Woman’s Guide to Beauty - Aisling McDermott



I’ve been writing about beauty for quite a long time now and it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve seen lots and lots of beauty trends, fads and products arrive, enjoy their fifteen minutes in the spotlight and move on, to be replaced by the new must-haves and wonder products. The quality of cosmetics, particularly in some of the budget brands, has improved and keeps on improving. Consumers are quite literally dazzled by choice.

Dazzled. Dazed and confused. In a nutshell, that’s the reason for About Face. There is just so much choice, so much hype and so much jargon thrown around that it is increasingly difficult to know what’s good and what’s bad, which are the duds and which the diamonds, without spending a whole lot of time and money finding out. We’ve done the testing for you, narrowed it all down and have done our best to share all our best tips and favourite recommendations with you.

This book is for everyone. Even women who don’t think they are ‘into’ beauty products will always, without fail, have a couple of ‘can’t live withouts’ tucked away. They might not wear make-up but whether it’s that one shampoo that can control their hair or the only moisturiser they trust, they’ll have something, believe me. And that’s all good. A minimal routine with simple, no-nonsense products that work and make you feel good about yourself means you’ve got it sorted. Right?

Of course it’s right. And then, of course, there is the other extreme – the product junkie. The woman who loves make-up and skincare so much that she devours every beauty website and glossy magazine and subscribes to every Birchbox and Glossy-box offering out there. She haunts department store beauty halls and the words ‘free sample’ make her keel over in a state approaching orgasm. Although she already has over a hundred red lipsticks, there’s always room for one (or ten) more. Right?

Yes, also right. Whatever – and I mean whatever – makes you feel good about yourself is what beauty should be all about. Many of us will fall somewhere between these two extremes. If you’re reading this book, you probably tend towards the second type but even if you’re the first, you’ll find some great tips in here.

The problem with the beauty world is that there is an awful lot of deception out there. After almost a decade of writing about beauty, my bullshit detector is set to stun. As soon as I begin to read an improbable press release or look at the ingredients in a massively overpriced vial of serum, I can feel my inner cynic start to snort, like Miss Piggy, in disbelief.

It would help massively if my inner cynic could remain inner at times, but I have no control over her. When sitting in a room surrounded by industry ‘insiders’ and getting the ‘lowdown’ on an ‘revolutionary’ new product that turns out to be a make-up wipe or yet another useless BB cream, my inner Miss Piggy can’t help but burst forth. Tossing aside her blonde extensions and rolling her piggy eyes, she often loudly exclaims ‘but these things don’t work’ and wishes she were at home watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians and filing her trotters instead. (As a side note: she also wishes that she was on that show. Naturally they wanted her, but Kim vetoed it. Afraid of the comparisons, you see.)

As you can probably tell, my inner Miss Piggy also has a terrible habit of using air-quotes about just about everything. But I told you – I just can’t control her. The fact that she looks like me is also unfortunate, as she is clearly a marketing manager’s nightmare made flesh. Miss Piggy hates made-up science – the sciencey-sounding words that the cosmetics industry uses to confuse the bejaysus out of everyone. When she hears that a serum costing €150 is the new ‘must-have’ (those air-quotes again, sorry about that), she wants to know why. Why is it so expensive? What does it do? If by any unfortunate turn of events she hears that the wonder serum is full of cheap ingredients with only the tiniest bit of the good stuff, she becomes annoyed. Sometimes I can quash her outbursts with a quick internal karate chop but even though others may rave about the newest serum on the block, Miss Piggy actually tests it and knows that it does jack.

See, what Miss Piggy and I both agree on is that we hate being lied to and misled. We hate the deliberate confusion that the cosmetics industry creates in order to push their products and keep their sales and profits high.

Beauty never stands still. It can’t. The beauty industry is bigger than the car industry and the fight for market share and innovation is fierce and cut-throat. But while the car industry is tightly regulated – after all, you wouldn’t buy a car because 80% of sixty-one men surveyed agreed it went ‘quite fast’ – the cosmetics industry is not. While a car manufacturer has to stand over every single tiny detail of the cars they build, the cosmetic industry can produce a cream and tell us it will ‘luminise’, look ‘glowy’, make skin ‘dewy’ and could make you ‘appear ten years younger’.

Now, how can you test those claims? You can’t, because they’re meaningless and unregulated. Lots of words you’ll see on labels mean nothing. Hypo-allergenic? You can put that claim on a bottle of bleach if you so wish. Dermatologically tested? Ditto. If someone tells me a car goes from zero to sixty in a certain number of seconds, I can get into the car and find out. It’s quantitative, it’s measurable.

If someone tells me that a foundation will make me ‘appear more youthful’, how do I test that claim? It is qualitative – it’s a matter of perception and can’t be measured accurately. If someone tells me that a peptide will increase the collagen production in my skin how do I test that? I can’t. (It won’t by the way, but we’ll get to that later.)

Most tests that skincare companies quote are done ‘in vivo’. This means that someone squirted a concentrated amount of the ingredient onto some cells in a petri dish and a reaction happened. This is where all the misleading sciencey-sounding information about things such as peptides, for example, comes from. In the petri dish the peptides probably did all sorts of amazing things, but the way they work on actual human skin in the watered-down amounts that your serum or moisturiser contain cannot replicate this effect.

What women want is the truth. They want a voice they can trust and that’s where About Face comes in. There are tons of good products out there and there are stand-out brands, and this is where I start to get excited. There have been vast improvements in skincare in the last few years and it has never been easier to get good skin, to find the right foundation and to learn how to layer your products to find the right mix for you.

There is no wrong way to do anything. We’ve made suggestions and recommended hundreds of products that we’ve tried and tested to help you on your way. I have been very lucky to have been joined by Laura Kennedy in the writing of this book – we are different ages, with different skin types, colouring, tastes and experiences in the beauty world. That we are both beauty writers and unashamed product junkies seals the deal. I think our combined expertise has helped to make this book the very best source of information available.

Oh, and yes – one last thing. Foundation is definitely not a feminist issue. Wear make-up or don’t wear make-up, it doesn’t matter at all. Just enjoy!

Aisling McDermott, 2015




Before Aisling was born, her Dad worked for Ponds. Yes, Cold Cream Ponds. Because of this, he considers himself an expert in skincare, even though he has had no involvement with the industry for over fifty years. Fifty years, people. And yet conversations with him about the skincare industry often go something like this.

Dad (chortling): ‘Grease. Emollients and foaming agents in nice jars. That’s all that stuff is.’

Aisling: ‘Yes, once, but now things have moved on and –

Dad: ‘Ah there’s no talking to you women.’

Aisling: ‘Dad, but you worked in the FINANCE department. And this was in the 60s. Surely you must accept that things have moved on quite a bit in the intervening HALF A CENTURY?

Dad: ‘Nope. But I’ll grant you they’ve probably put a bit more perfume in there or something.

So that usually ends that little father-daughter conversation, so they return to talking about their shared love of big German cars or some other neutral topic.

Her father will never fully accept that even though the humble Ponds Cold Cream and Vaseline brands he worked on, which are still around and do remain unchanged, have now been supplemented with some serious skincare. Those traditional favourites are now part of the huge Unilever empire who own tons of other brands – Ren, Murad, Kate Somerville, Dermalogica and Dove, all of whom use new technology and ingredients.

Although there is much phoney science around there have also been some really amazing developments in skincare since Aisling’s dad worked in the industry. The widespread use of face-friendly acids, such as hyaluronic, salicylic and lactic acids, together with a deeper understanding of how skin interacts with vitamin derivatives such as retinol, means that skincare these days really rocks.

It is no longer a matter of slapping a bit of cold cream on your face, taking it off with eye-watering astringent toner and hoping for the best. Nowadays, we really understand the importance of sunscreen – the sun is responsible for a whopping 80% of premature skin ageing. With modern skincare products, we can now get rid of sun spots and plump up skin using moisture-attracting oils and serums. Using the right products, we can regulate oily skin and calm down acne and rosacea.

Things really have changed. Layering is a big thing in skincare now – using a handful of different products in the right order each night and morning will make a tremendous difference to your skin. And the developments in serums, liquid exfoliants (also called chemical toners) and many other concentrated sources of skin goodness can help you to have the best skin you’ve ever had.

Improving your skin gives you a tremendous confidence boost. And that’s something not even Aisling’s dad would argue with. Or actually knowing him, he might. But he’s easily distracted by the sight of a passing new reg Audi so we’ll let him off the hook.

The four key skin types and how to tell which you are

No discussion of skincare can begin without identifying your skin type, and it is generally accepted that there are four main categories: normal, oily, dry and combination.

It’s easy to find your skin type. Wash your face, do not apply any moisturiser or other products and wait for an hour or two to see how it feels.

Normal skin will feel and look comfortable with no feeling of tightness or oiliness. Your skin is damn near perfect, and no one will tell you this to your face but they secretly hate you.

Oily skin will be shiny and can look greasy straight away depending on how oily you are. Your skin is prone to breakouts, large pores, blackheads and foundation sliding off your face within a couple of hours. Blotting paper is probably your best friend.

Dry skin will feel tight and uncomfortable and if you can last twenty minutes without product, never mind two hours, it will be screaming out for something moisturising to be applied. If your skin is really dry, you’ll feel this sensation almost immediately after washing your face.

If your skin tends towards combination, you will probably feel a mixture of all of these effects. While your cheeks might feel tight and dry, your nose is often shiny and your chin and forehead aren’t be far behind. A lot of us probably fall into the combination category to some degree. The t-zone area (your chin, nose and forehead) can often be oilier and mor e congested than your cheeks, so taking a targeted approach with your skincare routine can help to even out skin texture. Try using mild cleansers that won’t irritate drier areas of your face and then follow with different treatments on the congested areas to clear them as needed.

However, we actually think it’s a bit lazy to categorise skin purely on this basis. The amount of permutations and combinations that exist mean that every single person has different skin concerns existing in tandem. That means there is no neat four-step approach to treating skin types. If there was, this would be a very short book indeed.

Congested skin (the type with blocked pores and lumps and bumps under the surface) exists in both oily and dry skin. Dehydration is the scourge of dry skin – but it also can be the bane of oily skin types, even though they may not realise it. Acne attacks skin at all ages, but particularly during the hormonal hotspots of puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause. The last two also see a marked decrease in skin elasticity and cell turnover, which leads to lines and less face firmness. And it’s no exaggeration to say that rosacea and sensitive skin can make life a misery for those who suffer from these conditions, so they need special treatment too.

To further complicate matters, skin types cannot be categorised without taking age into account. There are four (very general) age categories – all driven by hormonal change – we can identify based on our own observations, through reading literature on and research studies about skincare and make-up, and from years of discussing skin and cosmetics with hundreds of women.

The first is the teen phase, during which hormones send your skin nuts and cause all sorts of spotty, acne and oil-related problems. The second phase is the period that, for argument’s sake, we’ll say lasts from around the early twenties to the mid-thirties when, illness and hormonal disruption aside, skin should be relatively stable. The third stage tends to hit around the age of thirty-five when skin becomes drier. The fourth is the mature phase, usually from forty onwards, when skin begins to thin and lose elasticity, cell turnover decreases and a load of other things happen that sound dire but they really aren’t – they’re just a natural part of life.

However, bear in mind that none of this, not one shred of it, is set in stone, and your skin can decide to react and break out at any age – or behave like an angel, just when you are expecting the worst. Some women have skin at sixty that a woman in her forties would be jealous of. And if you are a smoker or suffer from sun damage, you’re going to have a completely different experience to a woman who treated her skin well her whole life. Illness also has an impact on your skin, particularly through the use of drugs (prescription or not), and so too, while it has a much smaller role to play than you might imagine, does genetics.

You must treat the skin you have, not the skin you think you should have, and pay little attention to product labelling that tries to herd you into buying products that you may not need. If one of the most beautiful women in the world, Joanna Lumley, finds that Astral Cream works for her in her late sixties and feels no need to ‘step up’ her routine and use expensive products, then you should take this as a very good example of sticking with what works.

We’ve got you covered. We’ve tested hundreds and hundreds of skincare products and now we’re ready to share our findings and our tried and trusted routines with you.

Treat the skin you have, not the skin you think you should have.

The essential skincare routine

Layering products is most definitely a thing in the Western cosmetics sphere at the moment. In days of yore, Western women were content to cleanse, tone and moisturise. In fact, many of us were content just to cleanse and moisturise. A two- or three-step routine suited us just grand.

So what’s happened?

One, there are a lot more choices. Remember, once there was only cold cream to take off your make-up. Now the different types of cleanser available run into the dozens. The cosmetics industry rushes in to fill gaps in the market by offering us products we didn’t know we needed (and, in many cases, still don’t need) and when they sense our interest starting to flag and sales figures go down, they decide to expand existing lines by, for instance, ‘going green’ and adding a completely new range to their existing offerings.

‘Going green’ was perhaps the most cynical cosmetics marketing exercise ever, rivalled only by the introduction of Alphabet Creams (see here). In the late noughties, every major cosmetic line decided to go ‘natural’ and ‘paraben-free’ and embarked upon a ridiculous scaremongering exercise that frightened the life out of people who thought they would harm themselves by using cosmetics containing parabens. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with parabens. They will not harm you in any way – they are a mild-mannered preservative safe enough to be found in many of the foods you eat. However, the cosmetics industry turned their presence into one of evil and fear with absolutely no evidence to support this. And funnily enough, all these green and natural ranges from the big brands just happened, without exception, to cost a fair whack more than the normal lines. Strange that.

This, of course, isn’t applicable to the solid ‘green’ lines that always existed and didn’t simply add a ‘natural’ range to their existing options. Lavera, Weleda, Dr Hauschka and the like are all committed to bringing us natural and organic skincare that is ethically produced.

Two, the internet. The beauty industry has expanded hugely since beauty blogs and vlogs began to offer reviews and show consumers what’s out there, how to use it and rave like crazy over the next big thing in cosmetics. Originally not reliant on traditional advertising, unlike magazines, beauty bloggers were free to tell the truth and ‘out’ the products that were useless. Of course, for every beauty blogger who knows what she’s talking about, you’ll find three who don’t – and unfortunately, not all of tell them tell the truth. But you’re intelligent enough to tell the good from the bad and there are plenty of great beauty blogs out there.

Three, layering is what they do in Korea. And by god are we being inspired by Korea like crazy people. Almost all the cosmetic innovation we’re seeing at the moment is being copied straight from the massive Asian cosmetics market – see ‘Korean Kopying’ here for more. Their

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